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Rwanda Renews Partnership With UNHCR, EU for Hosting Asylum-Seekers From Libya

Nigerian returnees from Libya disembark from a plane upon arrival at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. Hundreds of Nigerians arrived in Lagos on Tuesday, having been repatriated from Libya by the African Union (AU) amid outrage over recent footage that showed migrants being auctioned off as slaves. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Rwanda has renewed its partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the European Union for hosting asylum-seekers evacuated from Libya, authorities said.

Under a four-year partnership, the Emergency Transit Mechanism center, in eastern Rwanda’s Bugesera district, will continue to host asylum-seekers through 2026, said Philippe Habinshuti, permanent secretary at the Rwandan Ministry of Emergency Management, Thursday.

This partnership is important to ensure that the asylum-seekers receive the necessary services to live decent lives at the transit center pending their resettlement, Habinshuti told reporters in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.

Also on Thursday, the European Union announced 22 million euros (about 23.6 million U.S. dollars) in additional funding to support the transit center.

In a statement, UNHCR Rwanda Representative Aissatou Ndiaye said the EU has been a vital partner and donor to UNHCR Rwanda’s operations over the last few years. “We are thrilled to continue our partnership through this latest round of funding. The needs of asylum-seekers and refugees trapped in Libya are immense,” she said.

Ndiaye also said that through the transit center and Rwandan government support, solutions are being found to bring asylum-seekers “to safety, first in Rwanda and then subsequently in third countries through resettlement.”

The UNHCR said it aims to support about 3,000 more people to find solutions to their plight over the next years.

Calvo Uyarra, the European Union ambassador to Rwanda, emphasized the importance of the transit center in saving the lives of people facing major threats and inhumane conditions in Libya.

“It is a significant example of African solidarity and of partnership with the European Union. We are grateful to the government of Rwanda for hosting these men, women and children until… durable solutions can be found,” said Uyarra.

About 1,500 refugees and asylum-seekers have been evacuated from Libya to Rwanda since September 2019, according to the UNHCR. Of these, more than 900 people have since departed Rwanda, with many of them resettled in EU countries, notably in Sweden, France, Belgium and Finland, it said.

Large numbers of people remain in extremely difficult conditions in Libya, who urgently need to be brought to safety and provided with protection, assistance, and durable solutions, according to the UNHCR.

The transit center was set up under an agreement initially reached in 2019 between the Rwandan government, the UNHCR and the African Union.